Autumn leave hunting and kimono

Almost all the colourful leaves are gone in London. But now is the best season for autumn leaves in Japan.  We enjoy this radiant season in all sort of ways. For example, the following sweets are a fantastic interpretation of a Japanese autumn garden. They are not only beautiful but also extremely tasty, without too much sugar.

Where I am based in West London, Holland Park is within easy walking distance, and there is the Kyoto garden there. While I admire English gardens, and I also love Japanese gardens, which are essentially much simpler.  Although their styles are completely different, both of them appreciate the form and colour of the leaves, as well as flowers.

Japanese autumn leaves must be some of the best in the world, as there are so many varieties of deciduous trees in Japan. These not only produce yellow leaves, but also red and orange, sometimes combined with the many greens of moss and bark. Personally, I love the mixture of moss and autumn leaves. Some of the best examples of gardens with moss are at the temples in Kyoto, which are amazingly beautiful, and rightly famous. This is a very Japanese kind of garden, without many flowers, where moss can be the main ingredient in the garden’s design. Some of the temples are even called ‘moss temples’.

For a long time people have said Kyoto’s autumn leaves are quite the best, and historically many talented gardeners, architects and tea masters were invited to the former capital city to create gardens and temples. Often they planned their designs and planting scheme around the burst of colour at autumn, even though the leaves could only be seen for a couple of weeks a year. Nowadays, people go on special ‘autumn leaves hunting’ trips, travelling from the south to the north part of Japan to see the changing leaves at their best.

The pictures below show varieties of Japanese maple. These have particularly fine green leaves in spring and summer, and give us beautiful warm colours in autumn. These maple leaves are actually used for the decoration of dishes in spring and autumn, as well as being the source for different patterns of kimono. Since late 16th century, the Japanese have used the maple leaf as one of the most typical images in kimono design. They are used in summer patterns as the ‘water and green maple’, and in autumn patterns as the ‘deer and red and yellow maples’. Japanese people choose their kimonos from the quality of the material, as well as from the pattern, appreciating and enjoying each of the four seasons. Right at this moment, it’s the perfect time for hunting out a deer and maple kimono, and celebrating autumn’s great treasures.